Public demand be damned, Mudhoney is still here. With The Lucky Ones, the band release their eighth studio album, coming a full two decades after the classic Superfuzz Bigmuff. The Lucky Ones is a lean, punchy affair with almost nary a digression into the sort of dirge-blues nod-offs that have appeared on more recent releases. Instead, the eleven tracks here are tight, raw, and marked by insistent thumping rhythms and taught chunky riffs, laying the groundwork for one of the band’s most straight-ahead rock albums in years.
Indeed, the differences between Lucky Ones and its predecessor, Under a Billion Suns, are palpable. While neither record is particularly upbeat, Lucky Ones isn’t as sprawling (although “We Are Rising” does have its fare share of sprawling ragged glory meanderings); it has a liveliness that adds a nice subtle counterpoint to the band’s trademark spit-and-bile style. “And the Shimmering Light” moves along on a bright melody and bouncy rhythm that cave in to a psych-lite breakdown; all the while Mark Arm delivers an almost life-affirming, believe it or not, lyrical refrain in his cries of “when the sun comes up / there’s no word for how you feel!” That song segues nicely into the rumbling bass and up-and-down rhythms of “The Open Mind,” which, lyrically, hearkens back to the more political moments of Billion Suns (“Here comes another line / with a hook for you to swallow / here comes another lie / designed to get you to follow”); but at under two-and-a-half minutes it’s a pipe bomb rather than a revolutionary mission statement.
Yet, for better or worse (I’d argue better, personally) even when Mudhoney makes distinct aesthetic choices that separate one album from another, they are still the same band through and through. More direct though this album may be compared to other Mudhoney releases, it’s still built on heavy, down-tuned rock riffs, snarling punk vocals, and an overall air of disappointment and dissatisfaction (“The past made no sense / the future looks tense,” shouts Arm on the albums lead-off track “I’m Now”), with knowing winks and nudge-nudge glances still being shot to the astute listener.
Continuing to make records long after an audience writ-large stopped caring, Mudhoney have nestled into a comfortable groove that satisfies long-time fans--maybe picking up the stray younger fan learning about that whole Seattle thing for the first time - and seemingly themselves. What’s truly amazing, though, is that Mudhoney have been doing this for over 20 years, yet so few bands have seen fit to take up the mantel. To a generation of kids coming up, Mudhoney is a classic rock band; one of those groups that was friends with Nirvana. It’s odd to think of them in that light, but if the band’s continued existence is good for one thing it’s that they are proof that an entirely new rock template has emerged, withstood the test of time (almost a quarter of a century in fact), and there for the ripping off. Meet the new boss: he hates his job, he didn’t want the promotion, and he’s out back right now getting stoned.